A MILITARY SYMPOSIUM.*
THE ideal sketched by the Hebrew prophet twenty-five centuries ago, when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more," seems almost as far from realisation as ever; and there is still, unfortu- nately, a place—and an important place—for works like the present, dealing authoritatively with the fighting-strength of the leading nations. The articles of which this volume is made up have been contributed each by an officer of the Army therein described, and were originally published, we believe, though the fact is not stated in the work itself, in the pages of Harper's Monthly. That will account, among other peculiarities of the book, for the prominence given to the Army of the United States, about which, as a rule, English- men do not feel much curiosity. We all know what a vast reserve of potential military strength the Americans possess, and few of us care to know any more. They are practically secure from the possibility of sudden attack by land, and we, at all events, have no desire to attempt a repetition of our unfortunate feat of 1812,—a piece of history which the Ameri- cans, like ourselves, have most happily forgotten. It is worth noting, though, for future recollection when our own Cassan- dras weigh too heavily upon us, that the officer who describes • The Armies of To-day: a Description of the Armies of the Leading Xitt:ona at the Present Time. London: Osgood, and Co. 1893.
the Army of the Republic thinks it quite inadequate to the duties which it has to perform. Military writers may chal- lenge farmers for the first place on the list of everlasting grumblers.
English readers will turn with more curiosity to Lord Wolseley's article on the standing Army of Great Britain, and an excellent article they will find it. After a brief but interesting sketch of the origin and history of our Army, Lord Wolseley enforces anew those recommendations for Army reform which are identified with his name. Without being unreasonably alarmist in his views of our military posi- tion, he deals effectively with the want of system which we have come to associate with the administration of our War Office, and with the cheese-paring policy that leads both to waste and inefficiency. We have a standing army about 220,000 strong, more than one-half of which is always abroad, and it has to absorb annually into its ranks between 30,000 and 40,000 young lads ; and to send out nearly 20,000 trained soldiers to maintain the strength of our foreign garrisons :—
" If we would only offer as pay and rations what the United States soldier receives, we should obtain all the recruits we want, a far larger number of eligible men would seek to enlist, and we
could then afford to be more fastidious and particular as regards the health, strength, moral qualities, and social position of those
we enlist. Such a proposal would, of course, shock the regular Treasury official ; but I verily believe it would, in the long-run, pay the nation hand over hand to do so. Not only would such a system provide us with a far more efficient army than any we have had since Cromwell's time, but in the end it would be an economical plan. We should save large sums in both our hospitals and prisons. Fewer men would be annually enlisted with such weak constitutions that they break down in the first year's train- ing, or are sent home early in their career as invalids from foreign stations, to fill our hospitals and increase our pension-list. We should have far fewer men in prisons all over the world, for we would enlist no suspicious characters, and a bad man found out would be at once discharged. The annual loss from these causes would be less, and consequently we should require fewer recruits annually. I am certain it would pay us well to give every soldier at home and abroad, when at his duty, 6d. a day at least in addi- tion to his present pay, and to make his barracks comfortable by lighting and heating them properly, This is a big question ; but it is one which well deserves the serious attention of the people, and unless they take it up seriously, no Ministry is ever likely to do so."
Lord Wolseley, of course, does not miss the opportunity of ridiculing our old-fashioned stiff dress and formal parade- drill; and, on the latter question at least, the revised drill- books Om* that his views are beginning to prevail. He would also do away with the role of "cold seniority" in the selec- tion of officers for promotion, and adopt the system which we have so long followed with success in choosing our non-com- missioned officers. It is consoling to find that, in the opinion of a man of so much experience, and not at all inclined to optimism, our English officers are the best in the world, their superiority being due partly to their natural character and training as English gentlemen, and still more to their varied experience and frequent practice in war in all parts of the Empire. This last is a point which is too often forgotten in discussions on the efficiency of our Army. Von Moltke did not fail to notice its importance; and when some of his staff ridiculed, in his hearing, our little Indian campaigns, he reminded them that " the British officers in India do not go to the front in first-class carriages."
Colonel Exner's account of the German Army is very elaborate and painstaking, and can be recommended to those who wish to study in outline the system of military organisa- tion which is still the model for Europe. But too much is attempted in a limited space, with the result that the article is not particularly readable, and at first leaves no very definite impression on the mind. The changes introduced in the present year, including the abolition of the Ersatz Reserve, will have to be remembered. The French article does not err in the direction of giving us too much information. It is contributed by General Lewal, who has some reputation as a military writer, and, like most of the productions of a French pen, it is eminently readable. But it is written without any of the self-restraint which we have a right to expect in a cosmopolitan volume of the present kind, and which has been very fairly preserved by all the other contributors ; and as an account of the French Army it is utterly worthless. We are told in vivid and Chauvinistic language of the terror with which the Germans watch the military renovation of France, of the triumphs by which the " army that had been annihilated at Waterloo" won back its old renown—among them, it seems, is the battle of Navarino, but there is no mention of the Malakoff—and of the second Jena with which France means to console herself for the disasters of Sedan ; but except for some vague assurances of recovered strength, we are left none the wiser as to the present condition
of the French Army. The accounts of the Russian, Austrian, and Italian armies are written in a more becoming style, but we have little space to notice the many points of interest they contain. The Russian General who describes the Army of the Czar, claims as the characteristic excellences of the Russian soldier, a spirit of sincere and pious devotion to Czar and fatherland, a habit of unfaltering obedience to his chiefs, and a cheerful readiness to endure all manner of hardship and privation. The claim is made, we believe, with justice; but while all writers extol the self-abnegation of the Russian soldier, there is one fact not mentioned here which has an important bearing on his capacity for endurance. The death. rate from disease in all Russian campaigns is something terrible, and is due, no doubt, to the poor physique and bad feeding of the peasant-soldiers. Still, from one point of view, their simple habits and limited wants, added to their capacity for bearing heavy burdens, form a great advantage in war.
" You will often see, especially in Asia, infantry cross immense distances without any baggage-train whatever, and without a single superfluous man in the ranks. This circumstance con- stitutes an enormous superiority over the English, whose fabulous baggage-train and mass of camp-followers, who are use- less in combat, will sooner or later be fatal to the Indian army."
There might be something in that if we were foolish enough to take the advice of one small school of opinion among our officers, and, leaving our base, to plunge into Central Asia in search of the enemy. But we are not likely to make any such mistake. This writer speaks in high terms of the loyalty of the newly-formed Turcoman militia, and describes the supply of material as practically unlimited. " If one of the men of the militia dies, a hundred offer themselves for the vacancy." That is a fact of some importance to ourselves ; for if the Russians invaded India, a cloud of Turcomans would form the advanced guard of their army. Except in the case of the Turcomans, the Cossacks, and some other irregulars, no account is taken in recruitment of ethnographic differences, men of the fifteen great nationalities and of the countless smaller tribes being drilled together, and merged by discipline into a homogeneous mass. Thus in Russia, as in all other Continental countries, the Army is the great school of national unification. The Italians attach so much importance to this consideration that they maintain, at great expense, a system of recruitment on a national basis, in spite of the financial economists who urge the adoption of the cheaper and less complex system of territorial regiments. Even in Austria- Hungary, where unity is nowhere else to be found, there is unity in the Army. The corps of officers is German-speaking and German-educated, and, except in the Hungarian Landwehr, or second line of defence, the language of the service is German throughout.
Mexico is hardly entitled to be classed among the leading
nations, but the inclusion of her Army in the present series is quite explained by the special interest of the subject for Americans, to say nothing of the opportunity for picturesque illustration it affords. The article is not the least interesting in the book. It is written by an American, and draws a moat flattering picture of the state of the country under the rule of President Diaz. The man who has succeeded in evolving peace, order, and prosperity out of the turbulence, anarchy, and bankruptcy which he found in Mexico, must be a states- man of rare courage and ability. In conclusion, we may say that the book is beautifully, though not very accurately, printed on toned paper, and copiously illustrated in the style with which readers of Harper's are familiar. The editing however, if there has been any editing, leaves much to be desired, and very little trouble has been taken to secure respect for the English idiom in the articles written by foreigners.